A life-saving mail drop will begin in Northern Ireland on November 5 giving every home in the Province the chance to send a message of hope to those desperately waiting for a transplant.

During November more than 720,000 homes will receive the special leaflet inviting people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register (ODR) as part of UK Transplant's My life My gift campaign.

Currently more than 380,000 people in the Province have made their donation wishes known by joining the register, yet this equates to only 21% of the population making it one of the lowest sign-up rates in the country and below the UK national figure of 24%.

Last year nearly 500 people died waiting for the transplant that could have saved or transformed their lives: 19 were from Northern Ireland. Research by UK Transplant shows that around 90% of people in the UK support organ donation, but many just haven't got round to acting on their good intentions by joining the register and talking about their wishes with their families.

The mail drop aims to make registering even more convenient for those who want to help by providing a simple freepost registration form, as well as facts about organ donation and transplantation and a personal call to action from Chris Rudge, UK Transplant Managing and Transplant Director.

Mr Rudge said: "Research over many years has shown that the vast majority of people support organ donation - and that the main reason more have not acted on that support is that it is something they have not got around to doing or were not sure how.

"By launching this direct appeal to homes in Northern Ireland, we are therefore encouraging many more people to take that simple but vital next step of registering their wish to become an organ donor when the time comes - and tell their families."

The special mailer is being supported by the Belfast Giants ice hockey team and the family of Newry toddler Erin Nicks who was given a new future when she received a liver transplant in August.

Erin 's mum Orla said: "Our daughter was given a second chance because of the generosity and kindness of someone else. Without that gift she wouldn't be alive today. There are other people though that aren't as lucky as Erin and who don't get that second chance. That is why UK Transplant's mail drop campaign is so important; it gives people the chance to make a difference and help save lives."

The mail drop will eventually hit 11.6 million homes across the UK over the next five months as it targets areas of the country with the lowest proportion of sign-ups to the ODR.

For people wanting to find out more about organ donation and transplantation before making their decision, the leaflet contains details of a dedicated website (mylifemygift) and the Organ Donor Line (0845 60 60 400) - which can also be used to join the ODR.

To date, more than 14.7 million people have joined the ODR, while last year more than 3,000 lives were saved or transformed by the gift of a donor including 73 people from Northern Ireland.

Sadly though there are more than 300 people currently registered for an organ transplant in the Province, as waiting list continue to grow year on year because of the shortage of donors.

To find out more about organ donation and to join the NHS Organ Donor Register please call the Organ Donor Line on 0845 60 60 400 or visit mylifemygift

1. The mylifemygift weblink contains regional information - including localised statistics and case studies relating to Northern Ireland - for journalists. Further case studies from the Province are available for interview by contacting the UK Transplant press office.

2. 330 people in Northern Ireland currently need an organ transplant - 297 need a kidney transplant, 16 a liver, 11 a lung, 4 a heart and 2 a combined heart/lung.

3. The year April 06-March 07 saw 73 Northern Ireland residents receive an organ transplant - 39 received a kidney from a deceased donor, 7 received a kidney from a living donor, 17 a liver, 1 a combined kidney/pancreas, 5 a heart and 4 a lung. A further 48 people had their sight restored by a cornea transplant.

4. Unfortunately, over the same period, 20 people died while waiting for a transplant.

5. You are more likely to need a transplant than become a donor.

6. The need for organ transplants is rising due to an ageing population, an increase in kidney failure and scientific advances that allow more people to benefit from a transplant.

7. The continuing decline in the number of 'heartbeating' donors - those who die on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit - is due to welcome improvements in road safety, medical advances in the treatment of patients and the prevention of strokes in younger people.

8. Despite this, the number of organ transplants has actually increased in recent years thanks to growing numbers of living donor transplants and of 'non-heartbeating' deceased donors. However, these 'alternative' forms of donation are suitable only for certain types of transplant and account for minority of total transplant numbers.

9. All the major religions support organ donation and many actively promote it.

10. Repeated surveys show that the majority of the public support organ donation.

11. A deceased donor can donate a heart, lungs, two kidneys, pancreas, liver and can restore the sight of two people by donating their corneas. Donors can also give bone and tissue such as skin, heart valves and tendons. Skin grafts have helped people with severe burns and bone is used in orthopaedic surgery.

12. Black people are three times as likely as the general population to develop kidney failure, which can lead to the need for a transplant.

13. The need for organs in the Asian community is three to four times higher than that of the white community because conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, that can result in organ failure, occur more often in the Asian population.

14. The number of living kidney donations has more than trebled since 1995 and now account for one in three of all kidney transplants.

15. The NHS Organ Donor Register is a confidential database operated by UK Transplant that contains the names of more than 14.7 million individuals who wish to pass on the gift of life through organ donation after their death. This figure represents approximately 24% of the total UK population. The register can be accessed by authorised medical staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to establish an individual's wishes for donation.

16. The Human Tissue Act 2004 - as well as the Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006 - makes clear that the wishes of the deceased must be put first and where an individual has expressed a wish to donate by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register, carrying a donor card or verbally or in writing to a friend or family member, NHS staff will do all they can to ensure those wishes are fulfilled.

17. More than 9,000 people in the UK need an organ transplant to save or dramatically improve their lives but the shortage of donors means that just 3,000 transplants can be performed each year. More than 400 patients die each year while waiting. (Although 7,406 people are currently actively registered for a transplant, up to 2,000 others are also on the waiting list but are temporarily suspended for a variety of reasons.)

18. UK Transplant is the NHS organisation responsible for matching and allocating donated organs. It is part of NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), a Special Health Authority within the NHS that manages the National Blood Service, Bio Products Laboratory, and UK Transplant.

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